Team of the series: The Black Lions

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:13
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OPINION: In three hectic weeks, the series between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions was over. Now there is just a feeling of emptiness - bar the nostalgic mopping up.

There are all the If-onlys and the refereeing controversy and the evaluations and even a "We wuz robbed".

We thought it would be fun to try to pick a combined side - the Black Lions.

We are going to look at the candidates for each position and then make a choice. The candidates will be from the starting teams. It may be, however unlikely, that the team have 15 New Zealanders or 15 Lions. We are just going to name the player

The candidates will be from the starting teams.

It may be, however unlikely, that the team have 15 New Zealanders or 15 Lions.

We are just going to name the player in each position whom we thought the best performer over three weeks in June-July 2017.

Fullbacks 

All Blacks: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett
Lions: Liam Williams

Our Choice: Liam Williams. First of all, he played more than the All Blacks in the position. Secondly, he was brave, thirdly he was creative and most of all there was that magic try that he started, probably the most thrilling try in top rugby this year.

Right wings

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo
Lions: Anthony Watson

Our Choice: Anthony Watson, who played more, was hardworking, good on defence and, most of all, a handful when he got the ball.

Outside centre

All Blacks: Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown
Lions: Jonathan Davies

Our choice: Jonathan Davies. He had a brilliant series. If rugby is about attack and defence, he was excellent in both departments. For the All Blacks, the loss of clever Ryan Crotty was a big blow.

Inside centre

All Blacks: Sonny Bill Williams, Ngani Laumape
Lions: Ben Te'o, Owen Farrell

Our choice: Owen Farrell, who was clever, brave and skilful - and his goal-kicking really told.

Left wing

All Blacks: Rieko Ioane, Julian Savea
Lions: Elliot Daly

Our choice: Elliott Daly who played in all three, has the strength and all-round ability on attack and defence. He was first-choice for all three Tests. Speedy Ioane made a dream, two-try debut and was then dropped after the second Test.

Flyhalf

All Blacks: Beauden Barrett
Lions: Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton

Our choice: Beauden Barrett who is so skilled, varies play so well, keeps opponents busy all the time and defends so well.

Scrumhalf

All Blacks: Aaron Smith
Lions: Conor Murray

Our choice: Conor Murray. The better of two of the very best in the world. He was strong on attack, pinpoint in his retrievable kicking and so quick and accurate with his passing. And he can tackle.

No.8

All Blacks: Kieran Read
Lions: Taulupe Faletau

Our choice: Taulupe Faletau, whose close work was magnificent - his tackling and driving were strong - a man for the tough, unglamorous jobs.

Flanks

No.7
All Blacks: Sam Cane
Lions: Sean O'Brien

Our choice: Sam Cane - faster, harder and more direct at the tackle. And his own tackling was first class.

No.6
All Blacks: 
Jerome Kaino
Lions: Peter O'Mahony, Sam Warburton

Our choice: Sam Warburton who stood out in both Tests he played. Jerome Kaino's yellow card was a blot.

Locks

No.4
All Blacks:
 Brodie Retallick
Lions: Alun Wyn Jones, Maro Itoje

Our choice: Brodie Retallick at line-outs and everywhere else

No.5
All Blacks:
 Sam Whitelock
Lions: George Kruis, Alun Wyn Jones

Our choice: Sam Whitelock, the epitome of strength, courage and commitment. His tackling was outstanding.

Props

No.3
All Blacks:
Owen Franks
Lions: Tadhg Furlong

Our choice: Tadhg Furlong, the strong Irish 24-year-old who shirked nothing and was firm in all he did.

No.1
All Blacks:
 Joe Moody
Lions: Mako Vunipola

Our choice: Joe Moody. Outstandingly strong, reliable and calm.

Hooker

All Blacks: Codie Taylor
Lions: Jammie George

Our difficult choice: Codie Taylor. There was little to choose between them in line-out work but Taylor may just have had the edge in effective carrying and at the tackle, which way be slightly more important than scrumming strength.

Team of the series:
15 Liam Williams (Lions)
14 Anthony Watson (Lions)
13 Jonathan Davies (Lions)
12 Owen Farrell (Lions)
11 Elliot Daly (Lions)
10 Beauden Barrett (All Blacks)
9 Conor Murray (Lions)
8 Taulupe Faletau (Lions)
7 Sam Cane (All Blacks)
6 Sam Warburton (Lions)
5 Sam Whitelock (All Blacks)
4 Brodie Retallick (All Blacks)
3 Tadhg Furlong (Lions)
2 Codie Taylor (All Blacks)
1 Joe Moody (All Blacks)

It is obvious that there were some difficult decisions, split votes if you like. Oh, and picking individuals is not the same as picking a team.

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com